07
Sep
11

Why I Actually Like a Miley Cyrus Song

Let me begin by admitting that I am a highly critical person. I criticise the things I like. The other day, I had a discussion spanning nearly the entire length of the song about how stupid I think Party Rock Anthem by LMFAO (and oh boy did I have reasons to back up my argument!), which ended when my friend retired from the argument in confusion after learning that I actually love the song. (What can I say? It’s just crazy fun.) Furthermore, I really don’t like Miley Cyrus as a singer. Her voice ranges from “approximately the quality of most of my female friends in a karaoke room” to “shrill chipmunk torture,” her lyrics are stupid, and her attempts to sound “country” come off as insincere considering that she has never lived in an environment lacking plenty of California influence. It’s especially bad in Party in the U. S. A., in which she attempts to sound like an innocent country girl only to feel comforted at the sweet country stylings of… Jay-Z and Britney Spears?

So, last night, after recommending some ASL song translations as examples to a friend who was wondering if she was the only person who found fingerspelling to be the hardest part of learning the language (answer: no, if you don’t want to break the flow of the conversation, fingerspelling is insanely hard), I settled back to watch a bit of Stephen Torrence, A. K. A. Captain Valor on YouTube. Among his ASL translations are Miley Cyrus’s 7 Things and Party in the U. S. A., so since I put everything on a playlist, I watched/heard them, and I realized that, while I kinda like Party in the U. S. A. in spite of its stupid lyrics, bad singing, and rhymes that don’t even rhyme in that slant way that some rap lyrics do1, I find myself liking 7 Things on its own merits, rather than just because it’s kinda fun to listen to.

Although at first listen, the song sounds like it’s about the sort of silly teenage heartache that seems like the end of the world at the time, while we “mature” adults laugh it off and say you won’t even remember it in a few years’ time, it comes off as much more mature if you listen to the refrain:

The seven things I hate about you!

The seven things I hate about you, oh you:

You’re vain, your games, you’re insecure

You love me; you like her.

You make me laugh, you make me cry,

I don’t know which side to buy.

Your friends, they’re jerks;

When you act like them, just know it hurts.

I wanna be with the one I know.

And the seventh thing I hate the most about you:

You make me love you.2

There’s nothing about what she hates about her boyfriend3 that an adult can’t identify with. He’s a jerk, and he’s worse when his friends are around, yet she still sees the man she fell in love with in there (“I wanna be with the one I know”). She hates him for his faults, and she can’t stop loving him in spite of them, and most of all, she hates that she loves him at all because otherwise she wouldn’t care.

I find that to be a remarkably mature stance on love at all, let alone from a teenager whose usual fare is meaningless drivel. (Not a knock against Cyrus; I actually don’t know much about her songs in general. I just doubt Disney would be producing someone whose output isn’t mostly flavorless pablum. Who knows, maybe when she’s a little older she’ll get away from Disney and create works of art.) This is a beautiful and, quite frankly, heartrending description of a love/hate relationship in the process of breaking down. Cyrus’s voice, which I criticised earlier, makes it even more effective: In the verses, Cyrus sounds not like a singer, but like a normal girl, voicing despair for her dying relationship. In the refrain, she becomes shrill and angry, venting her rage at her uncaring significant other, all the more angry that she cares about him, yet the return to a soft normal-girl voice at the end of the refrain shows that she again despairs, and the thing she hates the most is the reason she cannot just leave him.

I already warned you that I criticise things I like, so here is the thing I hate about this song: In the last refrain, the lyrics take a turn for the complimentary. It’s like that stupid scene in a movie where the jerkass boyfriend makes puppy eyes at his justifiably-angry girlfriend and she just stops and says, “Aw, I can’t stay mad at you!” while the audience wants to shout, “Yes you can!” The love part of the love/hate relationship has already been established by the regular refrain, and this just feels like it’s turned from a “love hurts” song into a regular love song, robbing it of all depth:

The seven things I like about you!

Your hair, your eyes, your old Levi’s,

When we kiss I’m hypnotized.

You make me laugh, you make me cry,

But I guess that’s both I’ll have to buy.

Your hands in mine,

When we’re intertwined, everything’s all right.

I wanna be with the one I know.

And the seventh thing I like the most that you do,…4

But then the gives me puppy eyes, and I have to stop and say, “Aw, I can’t stay mad at you!” The last line of the refrain, the last line of the song, is,

… You make me love you.5

Last verse, same as the first. It’s why she loves him, it’s why she hates him, it’s why she has to justify liking him in spite of his jerkass behavior: She has to try and think of the good things because if she’s going to love him either way, concentrating on the bad is just going to drive her insane. This could be the formula for an abusive relationship, but so many people fall into abusive relationships precisely because they think it is what will make them happy, at least at first, so I can’t say it’s an immature stance to take. (Illogical, perhaps. Not smart, certainly. But emotions aren’t always logical.) 7 Things has regained its depth, and possibly even hinted at a dark future that you wouldn’t expect in a teen pop song.

My music tastes might make you think I’m a hipster, but never let it be said that I can’t like a Disney pop song.

WordPress doesn’t like <hr> for some reason.

Footnotes:

1. Not that I dislike it in rap lyrics, mind you, nor even that songs have to rhyme, but it’s gotten other singers into a bad habit, I think, of not bothering to rhyme properly in songs that appear at first glance to have rhyme schemes.

2. 7 Things © 2008 Hollywood Records, lyrics by Miley Cyrus & Antonina Armato & Tim James

3. Or girlfriend, I suppose; there’s nothing gender-specific about the lyrics, although I will assume it is a boy just because that’s what Disney assumes Miley’s audience is more likely to be concerned with.

4. 7 Things © 2008 Hollywood Records, lyrics by Miley Cyrus & Antonina Armato & Tim James

5. Ibid.

WordPress doesn’t like <hr> for some reason.

Creative Commons License

“Why I Actually Like a Miley Cyrus Song” by Wholly Crap Productions is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License;permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at houiostesmoiras@gmail.com. Other copyrighted works are credited in the footnotes and used without permission for purposes of criticism and review under the Fair Use clause of the United States copyright law. If you believe that work to which you own the copyright is being used in a way that infringes on your copyright, please send an email with credentials stating which pages you find offensive, and they will be taken down until an agreement can be reached, or permanently if no agreement can be reached.

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